Smart TVs are a dime a dozen on the market, but there are still plenty of households out there that have yet to make the upgrade. If you still own a full-functional non-smart TV, you can bring it into the 21st century with the nifty little Mi Box from Xiaomi.
Build Quality & Design
Powered by Android TV, the Mi Box is a small little thing, a fraction smaller than the latest Apple TV. It’s small enough to be tucked away near your TV without drawing too much attention, and thankfully features no bright lights to distract you. At the back you’ll find ports for power, 3.5mm audio, USB, and HDMI – the USB port can be used to connect an external storage device or compatible game controller. Unfortunately there’s no microUSB power port here – it would have been nice to power the Mi Box from the TV itself, but you’ll have to sadly plug in a power adaptor to keep it running.
The bundle remote is slim and fuss-free, which is great. There are buttons for quick navigation as well as a dedicate button for voice search and commands. Powered by two AAA batteries, it doesn’t light up in the dark, but there aren’t too many buttons on it so you should be good to navigate it by touch alone. Speech recognition via the remote was painless and for the most part accurate, so in lieu of an on-screen keyboard you can simply bark search commands when looking for content and the Mi Box will obediently deliver.
Features & Setup
Setting up the Mi Box is ludicrously simple – just plug it in, power it on, and go through the onscreen prompts. If you’ve got an Android device things are even simpler – just add the Mi Box to your Android profile and it’ll pick up your account details and associated information.
Once setup you can access a few apps from the Google Play store such as Plex, Netflix, and YouTube, as well as install compatible games to play. The interface is familiar, though not as polished as what we’ve seen on newer smart TVs that are powered by Android. The main section features apps and content that is automatically recommended to you, but this never seemed to work and was stuck in an endless ‘preparing’ loop.
The Mi Box supports 4K and HDR content, which is great – the puzzling question is that in what day and age do you own a 4K TV or display that doesn’t already have some sort of smart features built in? Having said that, I did connect the Mi Box to a 4K projector which didn’t have smart features, so I guess that’s my answer right there. Once connected to a 4K display, apps such as YouTube and Netflix offer 4K and HDR content, and overall the Mi Box has no issues streaming these. On Netflix there were a few hiccups in quality when trying to stream in 4K, possibly owing to the fact that the Mi Box is streaming via Wi-Fi as there’s no LAN port. But these hiccups were quick to correct themselves, and can be eliminated completely by using a USB to Ethernet adaptor.
Gaming on the Mi Box is possible, but just barely. The Mi Box did struggle to play somewhat simple 3D games without stuttering, so it’s safe to say that you can use the Mi Box purely for media streaming. You also need to connect a gameplay for most of the games to work, so trying to play via the supplied remote control is a no-no. The onboard 8GB of storage is barely enough to download large apps, so you have to be careful what you leave installed on the Mi Box.
Priced at AED 299, the Mi Box is a super-affordable way to get non-smart TVs into the streaming age. With built-in Chromecast support and hopefully an expanding library of Android apps and games, the Mi Box could be a welcome addition to your living room. The slightly underwhelming specs and storage means that you can’t do much else on the Mi Box without facing some performance issues, but aside from this it’s still a great solution for anyone who lacks a Smart TV.